drawing thinking. We runners talk a LOT about our long runs: pace, route, shoes, fuel, gear, mental game, etc. We plan, prepare, and then beat ourselves up for miles and call it a day. Yet, the most important thing about that run is that we get stronger because of it. Generally speaking, runners think more about their run than they do about what happens after.
Why? Recovery is boring! It’s the actual RUNNING we care about. After a 20 miler you don’t brag to your co-workers about your amazing ice bath or how insane your foam roller date got.
You describe, in detail, the grueling 20 miles that you gutted out in (__insert time here__). THAT is the sexy story. The actual run is what we set our alarms for, get psyched for, plan for and LIVE for! Everything after is…death.
I bet the first time you heard about the legendary Pheidippides you were like,
“Damn. Marathons kill people. Why would I want to do that?”
Later, you thought to yourself, “I am SO going to do that!”, but may not have told anyone for a while.
The MARATHON is this great, big race you give your all too. Well, at least some people do. Anyway, it’s heroic! You start to train for it and imagine flying at top speed in ancient leather sandals into Athens to carry an important message of victory, and then collapsing with everyone rushing towards you to immortalize you. Legendary!
Okay, that’s far too dramatic, but I have imagined that on a long run. The point is…we focus on the big finish, on getting to the end of our long runs or our race. Who cares what happens after that? You
won made it!
This is a needlessly long introduction to simply say that…
what happens AFTER you run needs more attention.
If you want to finish one great marathon and then die after you run, well…okay.
For the rest of us, let’s not forget to recover well so we can
die run another day! Usually, the best way to recover well is to prepare things in advance (like post-run snacks), and develop a routine. The more routine your recovery is, the more likely you are to hit the important stuff.
My Ideal Long Run Recovery
DISCLAIMER: Every good post needs a disclaimer. This is how I like to recover. Doesn’t mean I always do it this way. Doesn’t mean you HAVE to do it this way. Just a helpful list of steps you can adjust for yourself. These tips apply mainly to high mileage training runs or after a marathon+ race.
1) Walk and stretch.
Look alive! After my run is over, I don’t sit down. NEVER SIT DOWN. Sitting down is telling the greek gods you want to follow in Pheidippides’ footsteps. I keep walking for 10 minutes and do some light stretches. This keeps blood flowing and helps prevent muscles from cramping up.
2) Eat and Drink.
As I walk and stretch, I feed. I plan ahead to have a healthy snack ready to devour within 15 minutes post run. Usually a protein shake and a piece of fruit. I drink water and an electrolyte drink and keep eating/drinking for the rest of the day, but this first whole food binge is crucial. Make good choices here. Your body is weak and desperate for good tools it can use to repair all the damage you just did to it.
3) Active Recovery.
After my snack has settled, I’ll start a 10 to 15 minute routine with dynamic stretches and light strength exercises. Nothing crazy. Maybe some iron crosses and good mornings; things like the Full Body Finisher workouts I post. This keeps me from tightening up into a rigid ball of angry runner and speeds up my recovery.
4) Ice and shower.
I take a 10 to 15 minute ice bath. I don’t usually ice bath unless I’ve ran 15+ miles. Some don’t believe it helps, but I’ve seen it positively increase my chances of moving normally the next day. Bonus: a tepid shower feels awesome after an ice bath.
5) Feed and nap.
A substantial meal is a beautiful thing. Especially within an hour after finishing my run. I don’t always make the best choices here. Beer often sneaks in. I don’t recommend it, but it’s real life. Also, after 16 to 20 milers, a nice nap is great damage control, kickstarting my body into repair mode. If possible, I nap for about an hour. If not possible, I at least kick up my feet and do something that requires very little energy. After that I’ll drink, walk around, and stretch again.
6) Massage and Mobility.
About 3 hours after the run, I’ll self-massage with a variety of rollers (foam roller, massage ball, etc). This is where some easy yoga moves would come in for me. If you can afford to get a pro massage, make sure they go easy on you.
HOW ABOUT YOU?
- What do YOU do to keep from dying after you run?
- Do you have any post-run rituals? Things you must have/eat/drink/do?
Also, you might like this: Running Recovery Extreme: How to Bounce Back From Hard Training Quickly